J. Fatima Martins
ArtCountry, a new cultural initiative launched in March 2017, is a collaborative consortium of five leading cultural organizations, “nestled in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts and at the foot of the Green Mountains in southern Vermont,” that are working in partnership to create visual art exhibitions and performance productions in theater and music that complement each other for both pleasure and learning. At the core of its cultural character is the landscape itself — the forested mountains and hills, historic trails and rivers and agricultural industry, which form the backdrop motifs of the region’s particular New England rural-modern intellectualism and economy.
Its rural-meets-industrial New England location makes it a vibrant place to engage in dialogue about identity, which you can do this summer when you can experience a poignant juxtaposition of the work of two artists who, through their work, depict and question American culture: the folk-style paintings of the late Grandma Moses at the Bennington Museum, and the non-conceptual word messages of contemporary Jenny Holzer at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). Although these artists appear to be vastly different from one another, they share an important commonality. It’s possible that, together, these polar opposites can help us solve the puzzle surrounding American identity and its nebulous “greatness.”
The inspirational landscape is complemented by foundational institutions Williams College Museum of Art and The Clark Art Institute, with their established history as centers of artistic creativity and academics, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which has been attracting summertime crowds to the region for over six decades.
For summer 2017, the five institutions have created programming with connective themes focused on attracting visitors who, for the duration of their stay in the Berkshires, become members of the local community. The exhibition and programs, therefore, range from curated, in-depth reexaminations of historic and popular visual artists to the presentation of risky and innovative expressions by living contemporary and world-known creatives who will work on long-term projects and build programs for and about diverse audiences.